The RAC has warned British drivers heading off to France that they will need to have a Crit'Air sticker on their vehicle, or they risk a potential €180 fine.
There are now a number of cities covered by a zone à faibles émissions (ZFE, or low-emission zone).
These zones aim to limit air pollution in major cities by cutting down or excluding certain vehicles from entering.
Cars driving through them must possess a Crit’Air sticker to show how much pollution their vehicle produces.
The stickers must be purchased online prior to driving into France, and be visible on your vehicle.
The introduction of these zones has been met with frustration from drivers and driving associations, however, who say they will restrict the activity of people who cannot afford newer, less-polluting vehicles.
For those planning on driving in France, The Connexion has provided a recap of all the key points relating to the scheme.
What are Crit’Air stickers?
Crit’Air stickers are small vignettes that must be displayed on any vehicle in a ZFE.
They show how polluting a vehicle is, with the vehicle being given a sticker with one of six levels on a sliding scale.
The scale goes from a ‘0’ (for 100% electric or hydrogen vehicles) up to a ‘5’ (for the most polluting vehicles).
They must be placed either on the bottom right-hand side of a car’s windscreen or on the fork between a motorbike’s handlebars.
The type of Crit’Air sticker your vehicle has can limit or exclude entirely the vehicle from areas with a ZFE, depending on the area you are driving through.
In some areas such as Paris, cars with the highest emissions (stickers with a level of 4 or 5) are excluded between the hours of 08:00 and 20:00, or banned completely, such as in Rouen.
The plan is eventually for only the cleanest vehicles (cars with a Crit’Air level of 0, 1, or 2) to be allowed in these urban areas, although there are currently no cities with such restrictions.
Petrol vehicles first registered before 1997, and diesel vehicles first registered before 2001 are ineligible for a Crit’Air sticker, and are de facto banned from ZFEs.
Read more: A guide to Crit’Air stickers in France
Who does it apply to? Are there any exemptions?
Essentially all vehicles driving through a ZFE will need one, including residents of the area, residents living elsewhere in France passing through, and even tourists – there is a dedicated space on the website for drivers outside of France to order their vignette.
Even if you do not intend to stop and only wish to drive through a ZFE zone, your vehicle will still need a Crit’Air sticker.
The rule applies for both four-wheeled vehicles and motorbikes.
The only exception, currently, is if a car is classed as ‘classic’ – over 30 years old and in possession of a carte grise ‘véhicule de collection’ for older vehicles – it does not require a Crit’Air sticker.
Where have ZFEs been introduced?
In July, Clermont-Ferrand became the latest city to use a ZFE, bringing the total number of cities where you need a Crit'Air sticker to eleven.
Greater Paris: Vehicles with a Crit’Air level of 4 or 5 are banned between 08:00 and 20:00 – original plans to also introduce the rules to level 3 stickers have been pushed back, possibly until after the 2024 Olympic games in the city.
Rouen: All vehicles with a Crit’Air level of 4 or 5 are banned from entering the ZFE.
Strasbourg: Crit’Air level 5 vehicles are banned from driving in the city’s ZFE, with Crit’Air 4 (2024) and 3 (2025) bans set to follow.
Lyon: The same rules apply for Lyon as in Strasbourg, including the future inclusion of bans to Crit’Air level 4 and 3 cars.
Grenoble: A ZFE is in place, but bans will only come into effect from July 1, 2023, for Crit’Air level 5 vehicles, with Crit’Air level 4 vehicles to follow at a later date.
Marseille/Aix-en-Provence: Crit’Air level 5 vehicles are banned from the city centre and surrounding area of Marseille, with level 4 vehicles set to follow suit in September 2023.
Nice: Cars of a Crit’Air level 5 are banned in the city centre, but motorcycles are not yet (but will be at a future date).
Reims: Crit’Air level 4 and 5 vehicles are already banned, and level 3 vehicles will be banned from 2024.
Montpellier: From January 1, 2023, petrol cars registered before 1997, and diesel cars registered before 2001 (i.e, those not applicable for a Crit’Air vignette) have been banned, but fines were not dished out until July 1, 2023, as the city was in the ‘educational period’ for the scheme. Bans to level 5 and 4 cars will be implemented at a later date.
Toulouse: Cars with a level 4 or 5 are banned from the city’s ZFE, however, the city has introduced a “ZFE pass” which allows cars of this level to drive in the city for up to 52 days across a calendar year. Outside of the days when the pass is in use, cars must be kept in garages or private parking spaces, or not enter the city.
You can find out more about – and order – a pass from the official site here.
St Etienne: Cars registered before 1997 are banned from driving within the ZFE, but a ban on cars with a Crit’Air level of 4 or 5 will not come into place until 2025.
Clermont-Ferrand: Cars registered before 1997 are banned from driving within the ZFE, but an 'educational period' is in place until 2024 meaning fines will not be given.
Recent changes, however, mean that only five of the current cities with a ZFE in place will be required to ban Crit'Air level 4 and 3 vehicles in 2024 and 2025 respectively (if not already done so). You can read about them below.
What other cities will be introducing them?
Eventually, all urban areas in France with a population of more than 150,000 people will have a ZFE implemented.
You can see a map of the areas set to implement a ZFE zone by 2025, below.
How can I get a Crit’Air sticker?
You can apply for a sticker at the official site here.
The site also offers a simulation to see what Crit’Air level a vehicle will fall under.
If you are applying for a Crit’Air sticker from abroad, click the Véhicule immatriculé à l'étranger button to order a specific vignette for foreign vehicles.
The cost of the sticker is €3.11, and with postage, the total price will be either €3.72 for those within France or €4.61 for those outside.
When applying, you will need information from your car’s registration, or if applying from abroad you will need to upload a photo or scan of your vehicle’s registration document.
The time to receive your sticker can increase during busy periods, with authorities previously warning it could take up to three weeks for vignettes to be sent out.
There are a number of scams relating to Crit’Air stickers in France, which drivers should be aware of – and the only place to order a sticker is through the official site.
What do people think of the scheme?
Whilst the aim of the scheme is to limit any polluting cars in major French cities, a number of criticisms over the scheme’s harshness on drivers have been raised.
The Fédération Française des Motards en Colère, who represent motorcyclists, say their vehicles only produce a tiny fraction of overall pollution on city roads, and should not be included in the scheme.
A petition calling for the ban of ZFEs in France has racked up almost 250,000 signatures, calling the zones an “ecological heresy”, saying it will “scrap millions of cars still in working condition,” across the country.
Despite the general dissatisfaction by drivers, others believe the need for eco-friendly policies outweighs the inconveniences of the zones.
“You have to keep up with the times, there's a lot of pollution. Everyone has to play the game, so for me the stickers are a positive thing and a very good idea," said a shopkeeper from Toulon on BFMTV about the new implementation of the zone in the city.